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Oct 10, 2019

Accidental Discovery of an Unbreakable “Molecular Pinball Machine”

Posted by in categories: cyborgs, physics

An organic material that can repeatedly change shape without breaking would have many useful applications, such as artificial muscles, pumps or as a switch. Physicists at Radboud University accidentally discovered a material with that property. Their findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications today October 8, 2019.

“I tend to call it the ‘molecular pinball machine,’” says Theo Rasing, professor of Spectroscopy of Solids and Interfaces at Radboud University. Together with colleagues from Nijmegen and China, he demonstrates the shape-changing abilities of the material by having it fling a glass bead at high speed. In that process, the organic crystal material called 4-DBpFO delivers a force corresponding to ten thousand times its own weight.

The crystals have the unique property of significantly changing shape at small temperature variations around 180 degrees Celsius and doing so without breaking, which allows for that change to be repeated hundreds of times.

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